On a universal alphabet - a letter of W. Von humboldt to G. Bancroft (sept. 17, 1821)

Topoi 4 (2):171-180 (1985)
With an unpublished letter by W. von Humboldt about the possibility of establishing a uniform phonetic alphabet as a starting point, we investigate the ideological assumptions shared by such a project and by some attempts of Universal languages or Pasigraphies at the end of the eighteenth century. The almost unanimous dismissal of these attempts among philologists and linguists aiming at comparison seems to be responsible for their suspicion about phonetic studies, while the history of problems of transcription in Humboldt's writings ends up with a condemnation of any transfer of foreign sounds on the ground of the uniqueness of the genuine articulated sound in every language.
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